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A quick and easy multi-gen family adventure in Rochester, New York

Last updated 14th April 2024

Less than three hours from Toronto, Claire Zlobin discovers Rochester New York is an off-the-beaten-path surprise where family fun meets cultural richness and outdoor adventures.


High Falls, Rochester New York

With our parents and kids, we ventured off on a multigenerational trip to Rochester New York, where our initial idea was to spend a few days skiing. The weather didn’t cooperate, and we were both relieved and surprised to find out that, even after three days, there was so much more for us to explore, and we could have stayed longer. But whether you are there for one day or five, this itinerary is packed with engaging activities for all ages, ensuring a memorable experience for the whole family.


Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, Fairport

Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, Rochester New York

Upon arrival in Rochester, check into your hotel. We stayed at the Beautiful and luxurious Woodcliff Hotel & Spa. Perched atop Monroe County’s highest point, this iconic hotel offers stunning views of the Bristol Hills and Rochester skyline.

If a treat is in store, I highly recommend Woodcliff Spa; if you have massage therapy benefits, request an RMT massage to have some of it covered by your benefits to reduce the costs. The spa is located within the Woodcliff Hotel, and from the moment you walk in, you’ll feel your shoulders relax as you take in the calm and serene environment. There are a variety of luxurious treatments and therapies, including massages, facials, and body wraps at the spa. On a clear day, you can see gorgeous views of the Rochester skyline.


Rochester Museum and Science Center

Day 1: Science, Stars, and Relaxation

Kick off your first full day at the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC), where learning and fun go hand in hand. Explore exhibits that dive into science, technology, and local history, engaging the curious minds of all ages.

The RMSC is part Science Center, Museum, and playground and very hands-on. So kids get to pilot a plane and see if they can have a smooth landing, feel the sounds of musical instruments, and explore different cultures, all in the same place.

If you would like to gaze at the stars in Rochester, the Strasenburgh Planetarium is a great option. However, pre-booking your time slots is a good idea as they fill up. Check online or call before you go to avoid disappointment, especially if your child melts down when plans change suddenly.

In the evening we opted for dinner at Nocino which serves classic Italian dishes in generous portions. However, if you don’t want to leave the hotel or are looking for fine dining, there’s an award-winning restaurant onsite.


Fairport Lift Bridge, Fairport, New York

Alternative Activities in Rochester

Do you have an art lover in your group? Admire art at the Memorial Art Gallery.

Are craft beers and IPAs regularly in your vocabulary? Experience the Genesee Brew House or explore the scenic High Falls.

Do you like exploring small towns and people-watching? Discover the charming streets of Fairport or Pittsford, offering quaint shops and eateries along Schoen Place.


Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester New York

Day 2: Play, Skate, and Sports Galore in Rochester

Prepare for a day of boundless fun at The Strong National Museum of Play, an immersive experience for children and adults alike. The Strong offers two floors of interactive exhibits, including the world’s most extensive collection of toys and games.

The Strong Museum of Play is more like a huge indoor playground where you also learn about toys and the history of toys, which the parents will appreciate; the kids, however, will see the most epic play centre that I’ve yet to see anywhere else. You can spend all day here since there is an event, a ropes course within the Museum and games galore.

If you are sensitive to noise, I recommend noise-cancelling headphones because it gets very loud. Discuss a plan with your kids before they rush off about where to meet you in case they get lost. I love this place for kids of all ages, including the adult kids – I geeked out at the Berenstain Bears area since I was obsessed with this series of books when I was a kid.

The butterfly garden area is worth the extra $6 per person. There is a kiosk near the entrance of the butterfly garden where you can purchase the tickets.


Climbing wall, DICK’S House of Sport, Rochester New York

Have a rock climbing competition with your kids

In the afternoon, head to DICK’s House of Sport for an array of sporting activities. My 12-year-old and I had a rock climbing competition, and after a few tries, I managed to get to the top before him. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect because I thought Dicks was more of a sporting store and didn’t realize all the activities inside. You can book time at a batting cage, have a golf lesson, book a kids’ golf birthday party, and even go ice skating.

You can also rent skates, but helmets are not available; if you want your children to wear a helmet, you’ll need to bring one from home. Our adventure at Dick’s World of Sport was a perfect indoor activity on a rainy day.


George Eastman Museum, Rochester New York

Day 3: Market Mornings and Museum Afternoons

Step back in time at the George Eastman Museum, where you can explore the world of photography and film in a historic mansion setting. The museum’s staff will answer questions and give a tour, and I highly recommend speaking with them if you want to hear details about the inhabitants and the family’s lifestyle.

Wander through the Lamberton Conservatory’s lush greenery. If you visit in the winter, you’ll explore indoors. It is small but mighty with a large variety of plants, trees and flowers. In total, we spent about an hour here, and I’d suggest it as something to do in the afternoon if you’ve already had a busy morning.

Where to eat in Rochester New York

Rochester’s dining scene is a blend of traditional and modern flavours for family dining. Try Dinosaur BarBque for smoky flavours and lively blues music, and pick up some of the bottled BBQ sauce to take home with you. For interactive fun, the Playhouse/ Swillburger is a treat and a surprise. I had the best vegan grilled cheese, and the kids had a blast playing games. The Playhouse/Swillburger is more of an arcade with a food area and bar. For those with dietary considerations, Rochester offers a variety of options like The Red Fern for vegan dishes, Petit Poutinerie for gluten-free delights, and many more.

With its blend of cultural richness, natural beauty, and family-friendly activities, Rochester is an enjoyable and enriching trip for visitors of all ages.

How to plan Rochester New York

How to get there

Toronto to Rochester by road from 2 hours, 48 minutes

Where to stay

Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, Queen Room (2 adults, 2 children) from $279 per night

Find out more and book Woodcliff Hotel & Spa

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